July 26, 2014

Judge says O'Fallon bank robber reminds him of 'Breaking Bad' character

He robbed seven banks across the United States, but his luck ran out when he robbed the Bank of O'Fallon on Oct. 15.

And on Friday, Carl Frederick Kieffer, 49, of Spokane, Wash., learned his fate for his crime spree.

U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan sentenced Kieffer to 20 years on each of the seven counts. The sentences are to be served concurrently, which means Kieffer will spend 20 years in federal prison.

Along with the O'Fallon robbery, Kieffer admitted to robbing Lusk State Bank in Lusk, Wyo., on Aug. 26; Chase Bank in Novi, Mich., on Sept. 5; New Carlisle Federal Savings Bank in Tipp City, Ohio, on Sept. 13; the Bank and Trust of Farmersville in Farmersville, Ill., on Sept. 16; Huntington National Bank in Bolivar, Ohio on Oct. 3; and Fifth Third Bank in Charlotte, Mich., on Oct. 9.

Reagan compared Kieffer's case to that of a Walter White in "Breaking Bad," a crime drama. White is a school teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and turns to a life of crime.

Kieffer told at least one law enforcement agency that he robbed banks because he had a terminal illness and had between six to 24 months to live. He said he couldn't get any help from the Bureau of Prisons, so he turned to a life of crime and was planning to enjoy the rest of his time on earth with the money he amassed from the crimes.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Scott said there was no medical evidence that suggested Kieffer was terminally ill. She said he did have some medical issues, but nothing that suggested he was terminally ill.

Scott told Reagan that Kieffer told differing stories to police when it came to his medical condition.

"I don't know if he did it to get a lesser sentence. It's extremely frustrating that we can't get the simple truth out of him," Scott said.

For more than 20 minutes, Kieffer rambled on about his life of crime that started at an early age. He said when he was institutionalized, he did fine, but on the outside, he made bad decisions. He asked Reagan for leniency and said he would not get into any more trouble after he gets out this time.

He said he had no family contact for many years of his life and he was alone, with no money to pay his bills. That was another excuse he offered to police for his robbing the banks.

Scott said Kieffer had said he was gay and had told FBI Special Agent Daniel Cook that he had six to 24 months to live and he made the decision to enjoy the rest of his life.

Scott and Defense Attorney Thomas Gabel asked for 130 months in prison for Kieffer, but Reagan said he could not accept the government's recommendation. Kieffer's criminal history and the likelihood that he would be a repeat offender drove Reagan to sentence Kieffer to a longer time in prison.

And, he told Kieffer that it wasn't until the government pointed out that he showed no remorse for the tellers he frightened that he decided to apologize to them.

As officers were responding to the O'Fallon bank, an O'Fallon officer noticed a car with out of state license plates and a man fitting the description of the robber.

When officers activated their police lights, Kieffer activated his turn signal and appeared to be pulling over, but as officers approached his vehicle on Frank Scott Parkway in Belleville, Kieffer sped up and made a quick right turn in front of a trash truck, which almost resulted in a crash, according to court documents.

Kieffer then fled at a high rate of speed west on Frank Scott Parkway. Officers lost the vehicle near old Collinsville Road in Swansea.

A Belleville police officer saw Kieffer's vehicle in a cornfield off Smelting Works Road in Swansea and Kieffer was caught a short time late.

Kieffer told police that he wanted to give up after the first bank robbery. But when Cook asked him why he didn't stop, he said part of him wanted to give up, but part of him wanted to keep going, Scott said.

"He didn't want to go back to prison right away," Scott said.

In one police interview, Kieffer described himself as like Robin Hood. He said he gave money to people who needed help.

"He knew what he was doing," Scott said.

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